JERUSALEM (Dec. 21)
Premier Golda Meir has called a special Cabinet meeting for Monday to consider the latest developments in relations between Israel and the United States. It will coincide with the return from the U.S. and Britain of Foreign Minister Abba Eban who conferred in Washington last week with Secretary of State William P. Rogers. Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. , Gen. Yitzhak Rabin, has been called home to participate.
Mrs. Meir called the meeting after reportedly urgent consultations with other ministers on what Israelis regard as a serious deterioration of the U.S. position in the Middle East conflict. The Cabinet wants to hear the details of Mr. Eban’s talk with Mr. Rogers and it wants to hear from Gen. Rabin whose assessments of U.S. policy have been generally less optimistic than those of the Foreign Ministry.
The Israeli Government has been increasingly concerned over the drift of American Mideast policy since Secretary Rogers’ Dec. 9 speech in which he proposed an Israeli withdrawal from virtually all occupied Arab territory in return for an Arab commitment to a binding peace. The Israelis believe that U.S. proposals undercut their bargaining position in any future negotiations with the Arabs. Even more serious, they fear that Mr. Rogers’ speech indicated that America’s stand is softening and edging closer to that of the Soviet Union.
According to reports reaching here, the U.S. demanded in the Rogers-Eban talk that Israel publish an unequivocal commitment to withdraw her forces from the occupied territories once peace is achieved. Up to now, the American formulation has been that Israeli forces would be re-deployed in accordance with the new borders agreed upon by the disputing parties.
Mr. Rogers’ Dec. 9 speech dealt with the borders between Israel and Egypt. There are reports here that the U.S. is also engaged in proposing new borders between Israel and Jordan. Israelis were greatly disturbed by the Secretary’s suggestion that Jordan should have a religious, civic and administrative role in Jerusalem along with Israel.
Israeli concern has been fed by the uncertainty about when the U.S. will respond to Israel’s request for additional military equipment and economic aid. Mrs. Meir made the request when she met with President Richard M. Nixon in Washington recently. She reportedly returned home with the impression that the President would make his decision by the end of the year. The State Department said last week that it would be made in 1970. Israelis fear that their request for American aid will be made contingent on Israel’s acquiescence to a Four Power formula for a Mideast settlement.
There is a “new atmosphere” in America’s position toward Israel and it encompasses both the State Department and White House, Gen. Rabin told newsmen upon his arrival. He sidestepped a question about just how much the U.S. position has “deteriorated” by saying “the mere fact that Mrs. Meir found it necessary to call an extraordinary meeting of the Cabinet indicates that there are important things to discuss.” He was asked about the possibility that he would be recalled to Israel to take a ministerial post in the new Government and replied that it is “important that Israel keep me in Washington which is an important front in Israel’s political struggle.”